When you are just waiting at some point, for someone and you end up getting inspired by an incident, an overheard conversation or rather, someone narrates a story and it goes on to become a book?
To be honest, it happens to me all the time.
Don’t believe me? OK. Let me list the books I’ve authored so far.
First one was While I Was Waiting. It had short stories from my waiting experiences at different locations and strange situations.
Next, it is Cabbing all the Way. A book that catalogues my real time experience of travelling to work in a shared cab.
Now, this one…titled The Treasure Syndicate. Will you believe that this story was actually narrated to me by a cab driver while we were waiting for other members to arrive? Believe it! Here is what happened that day, as I remember it very clearly.
It was late 2012 when everyone was scared that the world would come to an end. Unfortunately, 2012 movie boomed at the box office, and the world continues to be a hell of a place.
Anyways, it was a cold evening of November 2012 when I arrived at the cab and waited for it to start. The driver was a regular one. He was away for a few days. Out of courtesy, I thought of asking him.
Let me try to re-create the scene for you here.
“Kya Ramu, all fine?” I asked.
“Yes sir… all fine. Was out on personal work” he answered and kept quiet.
But, these drivers! You know. They are so eager to share their adventures. They want to show the world that their life is interesting too; more than the flashy-flaunty social life that the working class brags to hide its shallowness.
Without any persuasion, Ramu came closer and whispered in my ear.
“Sir actually… we were in search of a Gupt-Nidhi!”
I could not connect to it immediately, but in a moment, my mind translated the Hindi word “Gupt-Nidhi” into English as ‘Treasure Trove’.
“What!” I jumped. Ramu nodded with a smile that aroused an intriguing urge with in me. I composed myself to ask questions, but then, I started with the most basic, most obvious one… (most stupid one too)
“Did you find anything then?”
“No, nothing sir…” confirmed Ramu with a hung face. I probably knew the answer, but then, Ramu proved to me that I have judged him too quickly. I asked him one more question.
“How do you do it? I mean… you have a map or something that you have found…or some folk-tale etc?”
“This is not a Hollywood movie sir…this is real…” he almost yelled at me. “The danger is real, risks are real and the treasure is also real!”
“but then, how do you know there is a buried treasure there?” I asked to bring in a proper perspective. Ramu began answering it like a pro.
“See, we have an ‘owner’. He is the actual treasure seeker. He has a strange gift. Where there is a buried treasure, he suffers a ‘fit’. This is the signal. This is when we know there is a treasure buried somewhere.”
I was wonderstruck. The keywords here were ‘owner’, ‘gift’ and the strange signal. I was almost lost in the story.
“so, once he has the signal, he calls us and we collectively hunt for the treasure. We are five people including the owner.” He elaborated.
“but how can you just go anywhere are start digging? I mean…how will the owner of the land allow you?” I asked almost spontaneously. He had an answer for that too.
“Yes, correct. That is why we mostly buy the property and then do the digging.” Ramu said, but he knew I wouldn’t understand it completely. He explained it fully.
“Our owner will do black magic on the owners of the property and kick them away. He will create situations such that they will sell him the property. He is a dangerous guy…I am struck with him for past 3 years. At times, I feel he has cast spells on me too so that I get pulled towards him whenever he calls me. My BAD LUCK!!”
As I was listening to this interesting narration. The author in me had already started building a plot. The keywords here were, ‘a team of five’, ‘ownership’, ‘magic’ and ‘luck’. I no longer prompted Ramu anything. He continued narrating at his own pace.
“but sir, it is very dangerous with a very little chance of success.” He gulped as he continued.
“only 3 things can happen. Either we get rich, or we lose all the investment OR… death.”
“Death!??” I exclaimed.
“Yes sir. Some treasures are cursed. Some are unyielding, some are just illusive… if our owner finds any inauspicious signs during the process, we just leave the trail and come back empty handed. I am like a bonded labor, a toy in the hands of the owner…I don’t get paid for this…”
“Did you ever find anything?” I asked as we were getting ready to begin our journey.
“No sir. But, the owner and his family certainly have. He tells us mesmerizing stories of riches that his family had unearthed in the past.”
Ramu at this point knew he had gone too far with his explanation. He had revealed too much. Our journey began and Ramu got engaged in driving attentively on the traffic infested Hyderabad roads.
The story stayed with me. I squeezed the essence of it, built a concept, carved out the characters, gave them a convincing background and tried to narrate this 20 odd minute conversation in my book “The Treasure Syndicate”